Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Post Management Tries to Snooker Guild

Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Post Management Tries to Snooker Guild

Article excerpt

Contract negotiations between the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis Newspaper Guild have mimicked the local weather over the past month or son a January thaw for negotiators, followed by a company-sponsored blast of cold, an ice storm and some snow, combining to make conditions slick and hazardous.

In some respects, the Guild was snookered by Post management.

Looking at a contract proposal that had been rejected by 96 percent of the Guild members at an angry, militant, high-spirited meeting, the Post agreed to drop its open shop request, told Guild leadership it would sit down for some quiet, informal meetings and present a new contract proposal.

Guild members smiled and relaxed. "We're on our way to pleasant negotiations and a respectable contract," they thought. "We know we'll have to pay a larger share of our medical costs, but the company will come through with a pay package that will cover that and still provide for a raise, which we have not seen in rive years."

Wham!

The company lowered the boom, bludgeoning the optimism and bloodying hopes for a quick and easy settlement.

The Post's new proposal is regressive in almost every area--no paid maternity leave, an end to job security, the freedom to outsource union work (circulation workers answering telephones from India, for example), the ability to discipline and even tire employees without a full grievance procedure, permission to change working hours and shifts with no advance notice, ending extra pay for working a holiday--and raises so miserly that paying 25 percent now and 15 percent of health insurance premiums next year would mean many employees would be taking a pay cut.

And, it gets worse.

Adding insult to injury, the Post demanded that the entire proposal be accepted by Feb. 1, or else the open shop issue would be back on the table.

But, sports intervened--both sides realized that Feb. 1 was Super Bowl Sunday, so the deadline was pushed back to Feb. 9 because all Americans--whether labor or management--must be free to watch their television sets on Super Bowl Sunday.

The Post Guild unit will meet on Feb. 8 to look at the contract proposal and probably vote on it. A rejection would send negotiators back to the table; an acceptance would mean the end of the union as Post employees know it.

And, the Guild also is looking at new leadership. Herb Goodrick, executive secretary of the local since 1988, is stepping down because of ill health and has been succeeded by Jim Light. Goodrick will remain on board through the negotiations and will serve as union spokesman.

Goodrick, leading his final annual meeting of Local 36047, TNG-CWA, was warmed by lengthy and spontaneous standing ovations on a night when the anger inside the room was a perfect contrast to the ice outside the building. As a going-away gift after 15 years of service and with a bow to his favorite pastime, Goodrick received a new bridle for his favorite horse and a gift certificate at his neighborhood feed and tack store.

He sat for a few minutes after the meeting and reflected on his time with the Guild. "I spent some 35 years working for labor unions of all types," he said, "and also served as an investigator with the Department of Labor, but I've never been with a group of more talented, loyal, hard-working people than those in St. Louis."

He paused a moment, then added, "And, it's not just Post people, but it's also those who work at the Review, and the Labor Tribune, and KSDK, and those who are trying to organize at the various Journals in the face of Pulitzer harassment."

(In the interest of fair disclosure, let the author point out that he was president of the local from shortly after Goodrick's arrival and through several bitterly contested grievance hearings and negotiations. …

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